On Wednesday, Saudi Arabia successfully deported several hundred Ethiopians to Addis Ababa, which represents the first contingent of some 100,000 Ethiopians who will be repatriated from the kingdom in the coming months
A total of about 900 people, including many mothers with small children, landed in the morning and afternoon at Addis Ababa International Airport, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), an organization linked to the United Nations, announced.
They “have been taken care of and registered by IOM teams and were offered, among other things, food, temporary accommodation, medical aid, and advice,” explained the U.N. in a press release.
The Ethiopian Foreign Ministry has announced that it will repatriate around 100,000 of its citizens from Saudi Arabia over the next seven to 11 months, following the recently signed agreement between the two countries, TV5Monde reported, referring to the AFP news agency.
Dressed for the most part in a black abaya, traditional in Saudi Arabia, the face of some covered with a niqab, many women carried babies on their backs or held children by the hand, their meager belongings piled up in plastic bags. They were waiting in a single line to be checked in when they got off the plane.
Some 450,000 Ethiopians residing in Saudi Arabia enter the country illegally
“We are back in our blessed country after six months in prison,” rejoiced Medina, a 28-year-old woman, “but many of our brothers continue to suffer, in particular, in men’s prisons.”
For several years, human rights organizations have been denouncing the conditions of detention of Ethiopian migrants in Saudi Arabia.
“We were crying every day. We were given bread and a pot of cooked rice for 300 people. Sometimes even 400 people lived in the same room, and we couldn’t see the sunlight,” 29-year-old Jemila Shafi told AFP.
These people “are our citizens. They have experienced very painful moments. When the government understood their pain (…), diplomatic negotiations began” to bring them back, explained Hana Yeshingus, representative of the Ethiopian Ministry of Women, Children and Youth Affairs.
“Meeting the needs of the 100,000 returnees will be a huge challenge for the (Ethiopian) government, for IOM, and Ethiopia’s partners,” commented the IOM.
The IOM estimates “that around 750,000 Ethiopians currently reside in the (Saudi) kingdom, of whom some 450,000 entered illegally and will need to be helped to return home.” At the same time, IOM recalled that “over the past four years, Saudi Arabia has sent around 352,000 Ethiopians home.”
While Saudi Arabia prepares mass deportations, Europe has struggled to deport even migrants convicted of crimes, with only 38 percent of migrants ordered to be deported ending up successfully deported.